When I was a kid Christmas was all about presents -- my presents. One of the joys of anticipating Christmas was the surprise of what those wrapped presents contained. Isn’t surprise why we wrap presents in the first place? I loved the experience of tearing the present open on Christmas morning to find what wonderful thing was inside. Once, the suspense got to me. While my parents were at work, I carefully unwrapped some of my presents to see what was inside. I found out what I was getting, but it ruined part of the joy. The surprise was gone, and I had to wait to enjoy the present!
When I read the accounts of the sending of the Christ child in Luke 1-2 I am struck by the clear aspect of surprise on the part of the participants. There is the obvious surprise of angelic visits that always call forth a reassurance not to fear. Zechariah is so surprised by the news that his wife will give birth to a special son that he doubts the angel’s message and is struck mute. Elizabeth is surprised by her conception late in life and by the leap of the child in her womb when the pregnant Mary visits. The neighbors of Zechariah and Elizabeth are surprised at the child being named John, the release of Zechariah’s tongue and the prophecy he speaks of what John the Baptist will do.
Mary is surprised that she would be chosen for the incredible honor of bearing the Messiah. She sings of God’s tendency to make unexpected choices of the lowly to play key roles in His plan. She is amazed at the prophecies about baby Jesus made by Simeon and Anna in the Temple. The shepherds are surprised to be included in the joyous celebration of the birth of God’s Messiah, invited personally by an angelic messenger and choir.
This Advent season our theme at Shiloh is Shine. As we focus on the Light that came into the world that first Advent, I hope you grasp the joy, excitement and sheer surprise of God in action. I know you have heard the stories over and over. Maybe some of the excitement has been lost in the familiarity? That experience of surprise in what God has done, will do and is doing now can return at Christmas time. You know all about the darkness. Now let the Light of the world shine into your heart and mind!
Yours In Christ, Pastor Ken D. Hutchens